Factual information does not quality for exemption under section 21

Complaint: Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada cited section 21 when withholding large portions of communications and briefing materials about the posting of partisan letters on the website of the former Canadian International Development Agency.

Investigation: The OIC found that some of the withheld information, including factual details, did not qualify for section 21. In addition, the institution had treated the information inconsistently, redacting it in certain places and disclosing it in others.

Outcome: In response to the Information Commissioner’s recommendations, the institution provided more information to the requester.

Information Commissioner’s position

  • There is a public interest in protecting information related to policy- and decision-making to ensure officials can provide full, free and frank advice to the government.
  • However, the exemption for “advice, etc.” in subsection 21(1) does not extend to objective, factual information.
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